Workforce Spotlight

Junior Achievement of Western PA Creatively Connects Students with Employers

August 19, 2020

Junior Achievement’s K-12 career education programs provide exciting, eye-opening realizations about how our economy works, how to find and keep a job and the role that business plays in our lives. For more than 80 years, JA has responded to various challenges in the workforce by creating local programs to meet the needs of our business community.


Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania’s longstanding partnership with more than 300 schools and businesses in 35 western PA counties provides organizations with immediate access to our student population, as well as inspiring our young people toward productive careers that will continue to be in demand throughout our region. A wide range of proven JA programs can help students, schools and businesses achieve their goals with JA serving as a conduit between local companies seeking talent and students seeking opportunities.


For example, JA developed the Careers in Energy program, which introduces middle and early high school students to the career opportunities in the natural gas industry. Students learn about different types of energy, high-growth jobs within the industry, and the skills necessary for those jobs.     


In January, JA opened JA BizTown®, a mock town of 19 business-sponsored storefronts and a Town Hall. Students learn to interview for the jobs they will hold at JA BizTown®, with over 120 positions available. Whether it’s the CEO, CFO or a company-specific job, at JA BizTown®, the students experience these jobs first-hand, execute their responsibilities, learn about all of the jobs in a community and gain exposure to a wide range of STEM-related jobs.


To respond to the pandemic challenges, JA has created an online resources page which includes a weekly Instagram Live featuring a different JA BizTown® storefront. The At-Home Resources page - has programs, activities and videos including the JA Virtual Speaker Series. This is a series of 10-minute videos from a wide range of local professionals discussing their career path and the skills needed for their jobs. These resources ensure that students can still plan and dream for tomorrow.


In high school, JA students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to become involved citizens and productive workers. Certain programs emphasize soft skills, such as working in teams, critical thinking, problem solving and conflict resolution.


Volunteers are the heart and soul of JA.  Business and community volunteers teach JA programs in local schools focusing on workforce development, business ownership and money management. JA volunteers serve as role models, working to encourage and inspire the next generation of workers, leaders and entrepreneurs. Thousands of additional community members from businesses help raise funds to ensure JA can continue to offer high quality programs for the next generation of workers.


Businesses can get involved with JA by participating in the JA Inspire Virtual Career Fair and helping to support the creation of JA Careers in Skilled Trades and Manufacturing Pre-apprenticeship Program.


JA Inspire Virtual is a powerful career exploration event that will take place virtually on December 8, 2020. This year, JA Inspire Virtual is for students in grades 7-12. There will be customizable exhibit booths, which will allow employer sponsors to feature downloadable career information and videos about their company or organization. The booths will be located in the virtual auditorium of more than 50 employers. The auditorium will have a public chat interaction feature with company employees. Students will visit the virtual lobby with a lecture hall that will have videos and webinars on career clusters. The lobby will have a STEM showcase video so students can learn about STEM-focused companies in the region. In addition, there will be a panel discussion with representatives from various industries, who will be available to answer students’ questions.


JA Careers in Skilled Trades and Manufacturing Pre-Apprenticeship Program will inform students in grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 of the educational and occupational pathways to the skilled trades, building trades and manufacturing industries. Students will learn soft skills and basic commonalities needed to start their career in these fields. JA is currently seeking companies to provide financial support of the program as well as content focused on jobs and skills in their industry that could be highlighted in the program curriculum.


Businesses that are interested in volunteering to teach Junior Achievement programs, supporting the development of JA Careers in Skilled Trades and Manufacturing Pre-apprenticeship Program, participating in JA Inspire Virtual or other education and special events, as well as supporting JA through the EITC and OSTC programs can contact Robbie Zaremberg, senior director of Community Development with Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania, at or call 412-208-4747 ext. 119.


JA’s message of opportunity and hope prepares students to be the workers and leaders of tomorrow.